Old Business: Martin O’Malley’s Failed Promise As Baltimore Mayor Will Stay With Him, No Matter Who Wins The Governor’s Race

By Van Smith

Published by City Paper, Nov. 1 2006

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In the summer of 1999, when then-City Councilman Martin O’Malley was running for mayor of Baltimore at age 36, he wrote With Change There Is Hope: A Blueprint for Baltimore’s Future. It was a two-part, two-booklet title (pictured), one bound in a green cover, the other blue. They were handed out far and wide during the last weeks of the 1999 campaign. O’Malley dubbed them collectively as “my epistle” or “my book,” and separately as “the Green Book” and “the Blue Book.”

Today, With Change There Is Hope represents a sweeping archive of O’Malley’s promises to voters. In politics, that’s a contract, a document that sets down what’s expected of the victor in return for votes. There is no penalty for failing to uphold the contract, but when its terms aren’t met, elections–such as the gubernatorial one that will decide between Democrat O’Malley, Republican incumbent Robert Ehrlich, and Green Party candidate Ed Boyd on Nov. 7–can result either in punishment or forgiveness.

Baltimore’s voters held up their end of the bargain with O’Malley when they first backed him seven years ago. O’Malley was expected to deliver–a lot. He’d set his plan down in the 40-page Green Book, which focused on crime reduction, and the 80-page Blue Book, which covered everything else–and how all of it is tied to the crime rate. Those who supported O’Malley’s re-election in the 2004 election did so despite the fact that many of his pledges remained unmet. Now, joined by voters in the rest of the state, they will decide whether to back him again in his bid for governor. O’Malley still owes Baltimore. If he wins the election, he’ll be expected to pay it back from the statehouse. If he loses, he’ll work off his debt at City Hall.

O’Malley focuses on the debt paid, not the debt remaining, as he makes the campaign rounds for governor. He has plenty of accomplishments with which to fill speeches. The main one, perhaps, was described in an Oct. 5 speech at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health: “Instead of wallowing in a culture of failure and excuses, we came together to take on the tough challenges and made progress.”

Running to replace Ehrlich this year, O’Malley recites a concisely packaged 10-point plan instead of handing out lengthy manifestos. Copies of With Change There Is Hope are hard to come by today. They are not available online. Google its title with the word “Baltimore,” and all that comes up is a link to City Paper‘s 2002 Best of Baltimore “Best Scandal: Police Corruption” blurb. But O’Malley’s 7-year-old collection of green and blue IOUs remains in the archives of history, ready to be dusted off once again.

“My approach as mayor will focus on two basic concepts–urgency and accountability,” he wrote in the Blue Book’s conclusion, after setting the bar for his own performance. He wanted change, urgently, and change came after he became mayor. But it often came not as promised, or sometimes not at all. That’s not surprising, given O’Malley’s great expectations. Urgency is hard to measure (he certainly seemed urgent), but accountability is O’Malley’s middle name. Now he’s accountable for how things changed, or have not.

Just as the mayor’s CitiStat program tries to keep city agencies on their toes by measuring government activities, journalists can apply statistical yardsticks to O’Malley’s promises. There are two sources of information for this exercise: what O’Malley said would happen, and what happened according to the numbers and known circumstances. (Numerous phone messages and e-mails to the mayor’s communications director, Steve Kearney, and O’Malley spokespersons Rick Abbruzzese and Raquel Guillory, were not returned.) Given the vast landscape of his panoramic vision for Baltimore in With Change There Is Hope, it’s best to begin by concentrating, as O’Malley did when he first ran for mayor, on a single issue: crime, and how everything hinges on it.

 

O’Malley’s June 23, 1999, mayoral campaign announcement speech, delivered at the corner of Harford Road and the Alameda, drew a small crowd. He made up for the lack of attention by using the speech’s text as the Green Book’s opener: “My name is Martin O’Malley. I believe I can turn this city around by making it a safer place, and I mean to begin doing it now.”

First, though, O’Malley had to get elected, and right off the bat his credibility was questioned. He told a story in the speech about having been to the same corner the previous midnight, when he was approached by a drug dealer, who asked, “What do you want?” The exchange gave O’Malley a rhetorical hook for his announcement.

“That’s a question,” the would-be mayor said to 30 or so supporters gathered to hear his speech, “that each of us in this city needs to answer in this important election year.”

Sun columnist Dan Rodricks suspected the hook was hogwash and immediately got on the case. Rodricks visited the neighborhood and found a resident who said that Harford Road and the Alameda is not a drug corner, but a “hackin’ corner” where “guys hang out lookin’ for rides.” O’Malley told Rodricks “it’s no big deal,” and explained that the guy on the corner who gave him his “What do you want?” line for the speech “was doing that hand motion they do when the markets open. It’s a notorious corner. That’s what they do there.” But, Rodricks reported, O’Malley “can’t say for sure that the young guy wanted to sell him drugs. It’s a hunch.” The columnist gave O’Malley’s poetic license its propers: “Good stuff, councilman. Even without that Monday-midnight story.”

O’Malley is prone to hunches, and has thus far benefited from people forgiving him when they don’t pan out. His main hunch as a councilman with mayoral ambitions was that if you solve the crime problem, everything else will fall into place. From O’Malley’s perspective, the revival of schools, housing, health, jobs, population, investment, tax revenues, the real-estate market–in short, all that makes cities tick–depended on public safety, government’s primary responsibility. He waxed on this theme in the Green Book, asking voters to “Imagine how quickly our great City will come back to life when we get hold of public safety and start closing down our expanding drug markets.” He pointed to other cities, such as New York, as crime-fighting models and suggested we simply copy what worked elsewhere.

In a 1999 phone interview about his crime plan, O’Malley was emphatic. “There is no way to create jobs or to improve the business environment if the only businesses expanding are these open-air drug markets. So that’s first and foremost,” he asserted. “It affects everything.” He went on to spell out his policing strategy, which had various names: “quality of life,” “zero tolerance,” and “broken windows.” The idea, he said, was to “improve the reality of public safety” by “changing enforcement priorities, by redefining the mission of the police as restoring public order on our corners and improving quality of life on our corners. When you do that the bigger crimes become easier to solve and easier to deter, and you drive the drug markets indoors, which drives down the random violence that is inflating our numbers to be some of the worst in the nation.”

At O’Malley’s announcement, he called the corner where he was standing an “open-air drug market,” and promised within six months to make it and nine others like it “things of our city’s past.” He added that “in the second year, 20 more open-air drug markets will likewise be shut down, and thus will the people of this city easily measure our success or failure.”

After six months in office, in a letter to The Sun, the mayor explained that he’d taken care of the 10 drug corners. And he described how it had happened: Police, city inspectors, and public-works crews had tidied them up, pronto. It was that easy.

The two-year mark in 2002, by which time O’Malley promised 20 more cleaned-up corners came and went without fanfare. As 2003 began, public frustration about the continuing crime problem was evident.

“We still have open-air drug markets on our corners,” City Councilman Bernard “Jack” Young (D-12th District)–usually, like most members of the council, an O’Malley ally–told the Baltimore Afro American in late January 2003. “Point-blank, nothing’s changed. We’re paying all of this overtime to the police. Where is the change?” O’Malley’s hunch was being called into question.

The experience of crime in Baltimore neighborhoods is as varied as the neighborhoods themselves. What feels to many like improvements under Mayor O’Malley–seemingly safer and clearly more prosperous communities around the waterfront, along the north-south axis of Charles Street, along the Northeast Baltimore thoroughfares of Belair and Harford roads, and in certain other key neighborhoods like Hampden–feels to others like it’s not happening in their neighborhoods. Because the improvements are concentrated in waterfront neighborhoods and the central north-south spine of the city, they are more evident than the sluggish expanses of the east and west sides, where change has come more slowly, if at all.

With or without dramatic crime reductions, though, the city has been rebounding in many ways, and O’Malley’s re-election in 2004 affirmed and affixed the notion that he was doing alright as mayor. Many understood that he would soon run for governor. Once he announced his candidacy for state office, O’Malley’s record as mayor became Republicans’ main message when promoting Ehrlich. They can do that because O’Malley’s hunch hasn’t worked itself out yet.

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If O’Malley was wrong about crime being the foremost determinant of the city’s fortunes, then there’s room for forgiveness. Crime in many ways has trended downward, particularly in some parts of the city and for some types of crime. But low interest rates, not reduced bloodshed, likely had more to do with the city’s improved performance under O’Malley.

In the Blue Book, O’Malley noted that in 1999 “City houses fetch roughly one half of what they do in Baltimore County,” because of the prevalence of crime in the city. Since 1999, “thanks to reductions in crime and increased investment in the city, average home values in Baltimore have risen 120%,” according to O’Malley’s campaign web site.

Crime reductions may have helped, but the key factor was the residential real-estate market boom created by historically low interest rates and rising demand. The 2004 median sales price for a Baltimore single-family home was $130,500, compared to $215,000 in Baltimore County. Thus, instead of city houses selling for half the value of county houses, under O’Malley they began selling at about 60 percent of what county houses get. The value of city single-family homes gained slightly more than 35 percent between 2002 and 2004, an amount a tad higher than in Baltimore County.

Real-estate values and tax revenues tend to rise and fall together, and they both jumped under O’Malley, as expected during times of cheap money. In 2000, city revenues stood at about $1.4 billion. In 2004, they broke $2 billion, and stood at $2.1 billion in 2005. Increasing real-estate values helped a lot on the property-tax front, aided by new taxes instituted by O’Malley.

The level of private investment in the city, likewise, has increased substantially. Little scaffolding and few cranes were part of Baltimore’s streetscape in the 1990s, but they are common sights today. The O’Malley administration says the value of development activity under way in 2005 was estimated to be $2 billion, whereas ongoing projects in 2000 added up to a little less than $900 million.

O’Malley’s gubernatorial campaign biography states that, as mayor, he has “promoted job growth by attracting over $10 billion in economic development” and “nearly ended Baltimore’s decades-long population loss.” But jobs and population declined in the city, and unemployment rose from 5.9 percent in 2000 to 7.1 percent in 2005. Job loss from 1999 to ’04 hit Baltimore hard, taking away about 40,000 jobs–the most among Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions, as was the city’s loss of about 15,000 residents from 2000 to ’05. A 2002 U.S. Census snapshot of the city’s unemployment situation pointed out key disparities: While the overall unemployment rate was 6.8 percent, white men were at 2.1 percent and black men at 11.8 percent. The city made the top-10 list in the country for average weekly wage growth in 2005, but at the same time lost more jobs–5,800–than almost all of the 323 large cities and counties studied. While the city’s employment outlook hits some harder than others, the jobs that remain are paying better, and the loss of jobs went along with ongoing loss in population.

The jobs lost under O’Malley came on the heels of all the jobs lost before him. In the Blue Book, O’Malley painted a bleak picture of the Kurt Schmoke years, describing job declines in manufacturing, transportation, retail, banking, and hospitals. The situation hardly improved after O’Malley was elected. Between 2001 and ’04, Baltimore lost nearly 5 percent of its jobs. A quarter of its manufacturing jobs, 15 percent of its banking and finance jobs, 5 percent of its retail jobs–all disappeared in a four-year span. The drop in public employment was pronounced, especially local government jobs, which fell by nearly 4,000 positions, more than 12 percent. Only three sectors posted major job gains: hospitals, educational services, and the hotel and restaurant industry.

Under Mayor Schmoke, the city lost an average of 722 jobs per month, O’Malley calculated in the Blue Book. Between 2001 and ’04 under O’Malley, the city lost an average of 432 jobs per month. That’s a dramatic improvement, but it is still a drastic rate of job loss–especially when the surrounding counties are alive with job growth. The Blue Book pointed out that the surrounding counties posted a gain of 104,000 jobs when Schmoke was mayor, an average of 963 new jobs each month. Between 2001 and ’04, with O’Malley as mayor, the surrounding counties added nearly 63,500 new jobs, an average of 1,322 jobs per month.

Thus, while the city’s job loss has slowed under O’Malley, it has not reversed, as O’Malley predicted. And the surrounding counties’ job growth accelerated by about 40 percent. Baltimore remains the hole in the doughnut of regional employment trends.

The public schools, well, they’re still a mess, but there are bright spots. As the city’s population declines, so does school enrollment–by an average of 2,900 students per year since O’Malley became mayor, bringing the total down to about 85,000. While some of the trends in standardized test scores are good, many others are not. Graduation rates are up for seniors getting a regular education, but down dramatically for the increasing share of students in special education. The money spent to achieve these results has increased dramatically on a cost-per-student basis, and has been the target of near-permanent scandal over the school system’s financial accountability.

In the Blue Book, O’Malley reported that in 1997 only 16.6 percent of third-graders’ scores were “satisfactory” under the state reading tests. This statistic is recited again on O’Malley’s campaign web site, and updated with the claim that O’Malley “helped 61% of the third graders meet those state standards last year.” The standardized tests were changed in 2002. Under the new ones, the percent of third-graders with “proficient” reading scores has risen annually, from 38 percent in 2003 to 59 percent in ’06, when the statewide scores had risen from 50 percent to 63 percent. The same happened with third-grade math scores, with the percent of proficient third-graders rising to 52 today from 40 in 2003, when the statewide scores had jumped only four points, from 50 to 54. That’s some of the good news.

Some of the bad news is that only 2 percent of special-education high-school students passed the high-school English standardized test in 2005. That 2.1 percent passed in 2006 is nothing to brag about, since it indicates that students in the city’s large special-education program don’t have much of an education to look forward to.

As students continue in school, their improved scores in earlier grades should be reflected in improvements as they reach higher grades. In some cases, this has happened, but not in others. The third-grade class of 2004, for instance, was tested again as fifth-graders this year, when its proficiency in math and reading both were significantly higher than those of prior fifth-grade classes. But the sixth-grade class of 2004, which was entering first grade when O’Malley was elected mayor, is another story. When the class reached eighth-grade this year, its share of students scoring proficiently dropped in both math and reading compared to its sixth-grade scores.

O’Malley’s Blue Book measured city schools’ graduation rates harshly, saying that “only 25 percent of ninth graders . . . ever graduate. This is unacceptable.” The percent of regular-education 12th-graders graduating is rising, from 58 percent in 2002 to 64 percent today. But the drop in the share of special-education 12th-graders graduating went from 65 percent in 2002 to 35 percent today.

When running for mayor, O’Malley’s intentions about special education were clear: He wanted significant improvements, and a reduction in the size of the program. He said that, at the time, 18 percent of the student population was enrolled in special education, and he wanted that number to drop to 13. By 2000, it had dropped to 17 percent, which is where it remained in 2005. Meanwhile, by O’Malley’s figures from his first mayoral campaign, the cost of educating each special-education student per year was $9,680. Since then, it has increased by a fifth, and stands at $11,722 per student.

In his governor’s campaign biography, O’Malley expresses pride in city schools, claiming that “for the past three years, elementary school students have posted higher scores in reading, language arts, and mathematics at every grade level.” That’s an accomplishment that would make any mayor proud. But O’Malley, by law, does not control the city school system. As mayor, he is an equal partner with the state in its success or failure–an equal partner with the government headed by his gubernatorial opponent, Robert Ehrlich. “Our children should not suffer due to adult disagreements,” O’Malley wrote in the Blue Book. “In the future, Baltimore should, once again, take greater responsibility for our school system. But we also must build continually on the partnership we have established with Annapolis–it is in the best interest of our children.”

The city-state partnership has suffered from scandal after scandal arising from lack of accountability in recent years, leaving the city school system in such a shambles that it is surprising some children are able to learn adequately. Neither the city nor the state has stepped up to take unilateral responsibility, though their collective responsibility is there for all to see. O’Malley takes credit for the good where he can–with some improved test scores in some grades–and, either as governor or as mayor, may be in a position to do more for at least a couple more years. But he’ll also have to live with the bad, until the system gets fixed.

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Baltimore under O’Malley is a mixed bag of results, and it’s hard to say changes in the crime rate made it so. By the raw numbers, though, Baltimore is safer now than when O’Malley started. In the first six months of 2000, when he was working off his obligation to clear the 10 corners, the city logged 141 murders, 161 rapes, 3,010 robberies, and 4,530 aggravated assaults, including 700 nonfatal shootings. In 2005, the totals from January to June were much rosier. Murder was down 3 percent, rape had dropped by more than half, robbery saw a 40 percent reduction, and aggravated assaults were reduced nearly a quarter, including a near 30 percent drop in shootings. The same number of under-18-year-olds–47–were murdered in 2002 as were in 1996, but in the first 10 months of this year 22 kids were killed, and all of last year saw only 14 juvenile homicides, so the situation appears to be getting less bloody for Baltimore’s teens.

Yet, despite these numbers and O’Malley’s optimism and declarations of success, frustrations and distrust about the prevalence of crime abound. Some of O’Malley’s crime numbers remain under the pall of a state effort to audit his numbers this year, an effort that the mayor rebuffed. And O’Malley’s earlier use of an audit of the 1999 figures to establish the baseline for his claims of crime reduction has been called into question.

O’Malley’s handpicked benchmarks in the Green Book set a high bar, and, although he didn’t meet many of them, they often moved in the direction he promised. His Green Book said public-safety improvements in the first two years of the O’Malley administration, for instance, should reflect New York’s as it first adopted quality-of-life policing under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in the mid-1990s. When Giuliani was first starting out, murder went down 40 percent, robbery 30 percent, burglary a quarter, and rape by 8 percent, according to the Green Book’s figures.

By three of these measures, O’Malley fell short. His first two years saw nearly a fifth fewer murders and burglaries, and a quarter fewer robberies–all smaller drops than what Giuliani delivered. (Given the doubts about the Baltimore’s 1999 crime numbers, 1998 was used as the base year for this analysis, giving O’Malley three years to accomplish what Giuliani did in two.) But on the fourth category, rape, O’Malley achieved a reduction of about 40 percent, more than five times larger than New York’s. Rape later became a category of crime suspected in 2003 of being under-reported by Baltimore police, and, after an audit, a 15 percent upward correction in the 2002 numbers was ordered.

O’Malley’s second-guessed crime numbers have historical poignancy. When he was a councilman, O’Malley made a name for himself by proving that then-Mayor Schmoke’s police department was cooking its books to augment its mid-1990s crime-reduction claims. Today’s data-accuracy doubts suggest that perhaps O’Malley’s police department somehow has been aping the bad behavior of Schmoke’s department, though hard evidence of this has yet to arrive. Pending future findings, which themselves may end up subject to charges of inaccuracy, the numbers O’Malley’s police department reported to the FBI are the best available data about Baltimore crime.

The raw numbers about crime reduction that O’Malley likes to cite, though, tend not to take into account the decline in the city’s population. Do so, and Baltimore’s murder rate goes from 40.3 murders for every 100,000 residents in 2000 to 42 in 2005. Thus, it makes sense that many people believe Baltimore remains as murderous as it was before O’Malley became mayor–because Baltimore was, in fact, a bit more murderous, per capita, in 2005 than it was in 2000.

O’Malley pledged in the Green Book to make Baltimore a lot less murderous, by taking the toll down to 175 homicides in 2002. This bold goal helped him get elected 1999, when there were 305 murders. But when 2002 closed out, there were 78 more homicides than he’d promised. Boston, a city of a little less than 600,000 people, and one which the Green Book points to as a model for Baltimore to follow, had 60 murders that year, by way of comparison.

Baltimore’s crime rates look bad when compared to other large U.S. cities, and the numbers hardly improved from 2000 to 2005. After five years of O’Malley, there were 17.6 violent crimes for every 1,000 Baltimore residents in 2005, nearly 80 percent more than the big-city average. In 2000, as in 2005, the city’s murder rate was nearly three times higher than the average for cities of between a half-million and a million people. Robberies in 2000 were 2.6 times more common in Baltimore than in other large cities, and aggravated assaults (including shootings) were 2.2 times more prevalent. Five years into the O’Malley administration, the violence had fallen off, but still occurred at nearly double the rates in other large cities.

In With Change There Is Hope, O’Malley observed that “Baltimore is today the fourth deadliest city in the nation, and the city’s murder rate is seven times higher than in the average city.” Time hasn’t changed much in that regard. In 2005, Baltimore’s murder rate was still seven times the average for U.S. cities. In the 2005 Detroit mayoral race, the fact that only Baltimore had a higher murder rate than Detroit was put in play on the campaign trail. This year, in a ranking against 31 other cities with populations over a half-million, Baltimore was second most dangerous, with Detroit earning the top dishonor.

Where violence is concentrated is where the greatest crime reductions are possible. Traditionally in contemporary Baltimore, the brunt of the violence has disproportionately fallen on the Eastern and Western police districts, compared to the other seven districts. After a period of increasing violence in O’Malley’s first term, it is here, in the Eastern and Western districts, where crime numbers show improvements–fulfilling some of the expectations O’Malley created.

From 1999 to ’02, the share of the citywide homicides happening in the Eastern and Western districts rose from nearly 30 percent to more than 40 percent. Murders were dropping in the city (from 305 in 1999 to 253 in 2002), yet these two districts were showing substantial increases in their body count. That’s now changed. In 2005, the Eastern and Western’s combined tally had dropped 30 percent from 2002’s level, while the rest of the city’s homicides had jumped up a quarter. The burden is shared now by four other districts–the Southern, Southwestern, Northern, and Southeastern–joining the Western with more murders in 2005 than they’d had in 1999.

The recent geographical shift in Baltimore homicides suggests O’Malley in some ways is starting to mirror Giuliani’s 1990s crime-fighting success in New York. In 1999, just before O’Malley declared for mayor, the New Republic ran a cover story on Giuliani that examined an important trend in the Big Apple’s crime reduction: The sharpest crime drops were seen in the area’s that needed them the most. Harlem’s crime fell 61 percent between 1994 and ’98, for example, and East New York’s murders went from 110 in 1993 to 37 in ’98. Similarly, in Baltimore, the Eastern and Western police districts have recently shown substantial improvements, although several other districts have experienced increases in crime.

Overall, though, the picture on the crime front is pretty bleak compared to O’Malley’s expectations and how it compares to the rest of urban America. “With public will, energy and political leadership,” O’Malley wrote in the Blue Book in 1999, “Baltimore will join the ranks of America’s great rejuvenated cities that are growing safer, larger, and more diverse . . . That is my pledge.” Now it’s seven years later, and Baltimore continues to earn its title as one of the most violent cities in America.

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Unlike his crime figures, O’Malley’s budget figures aren’t a matter for debate. In the Green Book, O’Malley indicated that the added cost of his crime plan was, well, nothing, or not much more. “The real solution in Baltimore is not to double size of the broken system,” he wrote about the police department, “but to implement the simple procedural reforms that will make greater use of the substantial resources already in place.” And in the 1999 phone interview, he said crime reductions under his watch would cover the reform costs, explaining that he planned to “increase city revenues by making this city a dramatically safer place quickly, and thereby reversing our loss of population.” He predicted that crime reduction would pay for everything, and then he pulled a George Bush I, promising that “I am dead-set opposed to raising taxes.”

The upshot from the police budget trends is this: a growing proportion of cops at desks, costing a larger amount of money. The department’s budget went up 25 percent from 2002 to ’07, the current fiscal year. Two parts of the departmental budget went up more than 100 percent: Administrative Direction and Control jumped from to $15.5 million to $32 million, while money for the Office of Criminal Justice Policy more than tripled, from $3.5 million to $12 million. Together, the administrative and policy slices of the police pie grew from 7 to 13 percent, while all other parts of the department saw their slices shrink. Though the overall budget went up, department-wide staffing levels dropped by nearly 5 percent from 2002 to today. Administrative staffing jumped nearly 8 percent–the only kind of police staffing that grew. Yet O’Malley’s campaign web site states that he “put more cops on the streets as part of a comprehensive plan to reduce crime.”

The five-year growth of the police budget wasn’t paid for with revenue resulting from an increased city population, as O’Malley had predicted. Population continued to fall, though more slowly. Rather, money was available to expand the police budget because of rising real-estate values and the mayor’s new taxes on energy, cell phones, and real-estate transactions, O’Malley’s prior no-new-taxes pledge notwithstanding. Because of the additional revenues, he was able to keep some promises.

O’Malley vowed in the Green Book to increase funding for the State’s Attorney’s Office “as long as it stays committed to the path of reform, and committed to keeping repeat violent offenders off the street.” The city’s contribution to State’s Attorney Patricia Jessamy’s office has been boosted from $21.6 million in 2002 to $30.4 million today, a more than 40 percent raise that has allowed staffing levels for prosecutions to increase by 55 positions.

The mayor has been true to drug treatment, too. “Since 1996, annual funding for drug treatment in Baltimore has doubled from $16.5 million to $33 million,” O’Malley wrote in the Green Book, indicating this is a positive trend he’d like to continue. And he has. Drug treatment funding under O’Malley increased to $53 million in 2005.

Teen motherhood and other health indicators affect crime trends over the long term, and O’Malley aimed to oversee their decline. He pointed out that in 1997 “nearly 10 percent” of city girls aged 15 to 19 had babies. There was a steep decline after O’Malley took office, and in 2004 the proportion of girls that age who had babies was 6.8 percent. He wanted infant mortality to decline, reporting that the city in 1997 lost newborns at a rate of 14.4 babies per 1,000 live births, “nearly double the state’s rate,” he wrote. It dropped significantly. In 2005, the infant mortality rate had declined to 11.3, half again as high as the state’s.

O’Malley pointed out in the Green Book–as Jay Leno was saying, too, on The Tonight Show at the time–that Baltimore is “the syphilis capital of the United States.” As O’Malley wrote those words, the syphilis rate was in steep decline. In 1999, Indianapolis became the syphilis capital, after Baltimore’s rate had dropped 45 percent in one year. In 2002, Baltimore was ranked 11th among U.S. cities, with an incidence rate of 18.6 cases per 100,000 people. That year, 120 cases were reported. But the disease jumped sharply in 2004, when 209 cases were reported for a rate of 33.2, placing Baltimore third in the nation, behind San Francisco and Atlanta.

Two other sexually transmissible diseases were mentioned in O’Malley’s book, gonorrhea and chlamydia. Baltimore “is rated number two in the U.S. for active cases of gonorrhea,” he wrote at the time. It has dropped significantly since then, but Baltimore was still the fourth-highest city on the list for active cases of gonorrhea in 2004, the most recent ranking available. When O’Malley sought to become mayor, he explained that Baltimore’s national rank was “third for active cases of chlamydia.” The city’s chlamydia rate has actually risen significantly since then, yet its national ranking dropped to seventh highest–an improvement, of sorts.

O’Malley recently summed up his disease-fighting record much more succinctly, and no less truthfully: “Syphillis [sic] is down 75% since 1997 and Gonorrhea is down 45% since 1995.” These surgically selected statistics are posted, along with the rest of O’Malley’s Oct. 5 Hopkins speech, on his campaign web site (www.martinomalley.com).

Baltimore’s improved status on drug-related emergency-room visits, an important indicator of drug abuse, is impressive, but still marginal in the national context. In 1999, O’Malley wrote that Baltimore is “rated number one in the nation for hospital emergency room admissions involving substance abuse.” In 2005, it was tied with New York and Boston for third in the nation.

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But O’Malley failed on some important other promises, such as the one about reducing the need to arrest people. The Green Book was adamant about giving police expanded power to issue civil citations for minor crimes, which was expected to free the courts of petty cases. “Through the use of citations–which make fewer arrests necessary–and courthouse reforms that keep innocent people and minor criminals from languishing in jail for weeks before trial,” O’Malley predicted that “fewer people may actually be locked up using quality-of-life policing strategies.” At the very least, he promised that “quality-of-life policing does not mean arresting and locking up our city’s young men indiscriminately.”

Under Schmoke, there had been 70,000 arrests in 1997 and 85,000 in 1998. After several years of quality-of-life police work, in 2004 O’Malley’s expanded civil-citation powers were put in place. In 2005, city police logged around 100,000 arrests. In 2006, the city was sued by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who raised charges of widespread indiscriminate arrests. So much for the less-arrests theory of zero-tolerance policing.

O’Malley’s record on police corruption and misconduct has a level of intrigue appropriate to the cloak-and-dagger milieu of internal investigations. His campaign pledges on the issue were zealous. “We know,” he wrote in the Green Book, “that when the police are encouraged to be more assertive, government must become more assertive and open in its policing of the police.” He’d been complaining about police corruption and misconduct under Schmoke’s commissioners for years, and yet “our problem has only gotten worse,” he insisted, adding that “There is nothing more harmful to effective law enforcement, and more devastating to the morale of law-abiding citizens and law enforcement officers, than police misconduct.”

To fight it, O’Malley pledged in the Green Book to “open the Police Department’s internal investigation process, to assure the public that police problems are not being swept under the rug by colleagues’ complicity.”

Immediately after gaining City Hall, O’Malley asked outside consultants to look at the department’s problems. Among their tasks was a survey of police personnel about street-level corruption, which showed that 23 percent of the department believed that more than a quarter of its officers were “involved in stealing money or drugs from drug dealers.” The survey put numbers on the idea that the Baltimore police had a corruption problem.

And yet nothing much happened. Not for years. There were two corruption arrests that didn’t pan out. The case against officer Brian Sewell, suspected in 2000 of planting drugs on an innocent suspect, became suspicious when police evidence against him disappeared during a break-in at internal investigators’ offices, and the charges were dropped by prosecutors in 2001. Officer Jacqueline Folio, accused of a false drug arrest, was found not guilty in a 2003 criminal trial, and the department’s administrative case against her was so full of exculpatory evidence and apparent attempts at cover-ups that she was cleared entirely–and settled her own lawsuit against the city over the whole, career-ending episode. At the end of 2003, police said they had conducted 202 “random integrity tests” to catch bad cops since 2000, yet the only cops nabbed were Sewell and Folio.

The quiet continued. In early January of this year, The Washington Post reported that O’Malley had been booed at a legislative hearing over his department’s high volume of arrests, and that the mayor countered that aggressive arrests would be reflected in increased misconduct complaints, which were down. He was soon to lose the use of that argument at hearings, for 2006 quickly became a memorable year in the annals of Baltimore police misbehavior.

Two days after the legislative hearing, on Jan. 6, a city grand jury charged three officers with rape, unearthing evidence that their undercover squad was corrupt in other ways as well. In April, a federal jury convicted two Baltimore police detectives for robbing drug dealers, a city grand jury charged an officer with stealing rims off a car belonging to an arrested citizen, and an officer caught a gambling conviction. In July, two officers were charged in Baltimore County in separate crimes–fraud and theft in one case, and burglary and stalking in the other. And in August, a Baltimore officer was charged with identity theft in Pennsylvania.

As a councilman and mayoral candidate, O’Malley was passionate about the idea that the police department needed a housecleaning. Police officers “after all are only human,” he said in the 1999 phone interview, so they must be policed “to insure that temptation, unchecked anger, and prejudice do not tarnish the moral authority necessary for a police department to effectively perform its job.” After five years of relative quiet punctuated by weak corruption cases under O’Malley, what he predicted in 1999–“well publicized arrests of clusters of officers who are lured away by the easy money and lucrative money of the drug trade,” as he put it in a 1999 phone interview–is finally coming true.

 

The Green Book set down an anecdote about Schmoke’s police commissioner Thomas Frazier coming before the City Council in September 1996, on the heels of councilman O’Malley’s return from New York to study its policing strategies. “You don’t have to tell me about zero tolerance. I know what they do in New York,” Frazier was quoted as saying. “They’re doing the same thing I started doing here with Greenmount Avenue–close down the open-air drug markets, drive them indoors, and you reduce the violence. . . . I have to be a team player. When we start closing down the open-air drug markets, the judges complain that we’re crowding their courts and the Mayor makes me back off. . . . Tell the judges. I’m only one piece of this criminal justice system.”

And so is Mayor O’Malley only one piece of the city’s public-safety complex, though you’d never know that from reading the Green Book. To get elected, he made it seem like he was a one-man crime-fighting machine, that all he had to do was hire a police commissioner to deploy known policing strategies proven successful in other cities, and it would all fall in place–an instant urban revival. It’s doubtful any mayor could have met the expectations O’Malley set for himself, much less one who hasn’t gone through four police commissioners and three interim commissioners the way O’Malley has. Still, he scored points for seeming to try and for being in power when interest rates dropped. This Nov. 7, the state’s voters will decide whether he tried hard enough. Either way, he still owes.

Bad Seeds: Baltimore police misconduct profiled in lawsuits portrays a department beset by costly allegations of illegal violence and dishonesty

By Van Smith

Published in City Paper, Sept. 30, 2014

After Baltimore police officer Vincent Cosom apparently sucker-punched Kollin Truss at Greenmount and North avenues in June, it took about three months before a video of the incident hit the internet, prompting the matter to go viral in a maelstrom of media coverage and official handwringing.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts reacted quickly, holding a press conference on Sept. 16 at police headquarters. Speaking before a battery of television cameras and backed by a phalanx of white-shirted high-level police the day after Truss filed suit against Cosom, he said, “much like the public, I was shocked, I’m outraged, I’m disgusted by what I saw by an employee of the Baltimore Police Department.”

Batts, who has had his post for two years now, also acknowledged the incident was part of a broader police-misconduct problem that he’s been trying to tackle, saying that “these issues didn’t take place or were not built in the last two years,” and that “it’s going to take more than the last two years to correct them, but they will be corrected.”

Deputy police commissioner Jerry Rodriguez also took to the podium, asserting that “what defines the Baltimore police department is not just one incident” and that there are “many challenges that these officers face on a daily basis, in large numbers . . . in a very professional and heroic way.”

Batts suggested a way forward: “We rebound by doing the job correctly, professionally, constitutionally,” he said. For those who don’t work that way, he had foreboding words: “If there’s bad apples within the organization, we move them out. We get rid of them.”

In many cases, though, the damage is already done, and taxpayers have had to pay. A parade of settlements involving legal claims of police misconduct have come before the Baltimore Board of Estimates this year, including: $49,000 to Charles Faulkner, who claimed he was beaten while in handcuffs during his arrest; $63,000 to Ashley Overbey, on whom police used a stun gun in her apartment; $40,000 to Alex C. Dickson, who was injured in a fight with police trying to enter his apartment; $62,000 to Bolaji Obe and Akinola Adesanya, who said an officer assaulted them in a parking garage; $26,500 to Leah Forde, who’d claimed she’d been falsely arrested and assaulted by an officer; and $75,000 to John Bonkowski, who said officers pulled him out of his car and assaulted him after he’d left a parking garage without paying. The amounts approved for settlement payments from the public coffers do not, of course, include the litigation costs already incurred by having to mount defenses to the claims.

The lawsuits keep coming. The same day Truss sued Cosom, Abduljaami Salaam filed one in federal court against several officers and Batts, claiming he was brutally attacked in July 2013 after witnessing the officers assaulting another man nearby. Salaam describes driving by the prior assault while it was in progress and then parking his car in his nearby driveway, when the officers approached and dragged him out of his car, beat him, hogtied him, and then continued to beat and kick him before falsely arresting him on eluding-police charges that were later dropped. Earlier, on Sept. 5, Jermaine Lyons sued three officers, claiming they cavity-searched him in full public view in May 2013 after they stopped him as he was bicycling and asked him if he had any he drugs—a question he answered in the negative.

The Baltimore Police Department (BPD) is taking concrete steps to heal the damage to community trust that past bad conduct has wrought, including pursuing an effort to have police wear body cameras that record their actions and following the constructive criticism provided by an external audit of its internal-affairs function that investigates misconduct. Batts’ efforts have included the appointment of Lt. Col. Melvin Russell as chief of community partnerships, a new initiative designed to build bridges between BPD, communities, and their institutions, such as churches, in order to enhance public trust in the department.

Last year at an event at Enoch Pratt Central Library, Russell said Batts is trying “to go after the bad seeds in the department and pull them by the root and get’em out of the agency,” according to a transcript of the event. Batts, Russell added, “doesn’t accept it and he’s doin’ his best to root it out of his department.”

The department’s recent bad publicity includes a lengthy Baltimore Sun investigative story, published on Sept. 28, about more than 100 settled lawsuits involving claims of police brutality and other civil-rights violations. The story says that taxpayers have paid more than $11 million in settlements and litigation costs since January 2011.

The ongoing public outrage has not occurred in a vacuum. The Aug. 9 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, spawned not only unrest in that city, but a national outcry over law-enforcement culture and its perceived insensitivity to communities’ desires to assure safety without intrusive, fearsome, dishonest, and brutal police tactics. A survey of recent police-misconduct litigation involving BPD suggests that, in Baltimore, such concerns may not be unfounded.

Makia Smith

In March 2012, Makia Smith was stopped in traffic when she noticed four BPD officers—Nathan Church, William Pilkerton Jr., Nathan Ulmer, and Kenneth Campbell—beating a man, and began using her cellphone to take pictures of the spectacle. One of the officers, Nathan Church, noticed what Smith was doing, and proceeded to grab and destroy the telephone by stomping on it before pulling Smith out of her car and beating her. The other three officers then joined in on the assault before arresting Smith, while threatening to transport her 2-year-old daughter, who was in car’s back seat, to the Department of Social Services. Charges that Smith assaulted Church and obstructed traffic with her car were later dropped. Smith received medical treatment for injuries to her face, neck, and body.

U.S. District Court judge Marvin Garbis in March ruled that Smith’s claims against BPD and Batts could go forward, despite their efforts to have them dismissed, and so the case is proceeding to two trials: first as to the individual officers, then as to BPD and Batts.

Church tried to have Smith’s lawsuit stayed because he’d sought bankruptcy protection shortly after it was filed, but Garbis denied the request, noting, “it appears that Defendant Church made false statements, under oath, to the United States Bankruptcy Court, regarding the pendency of the instant lawsuit.” More recently, former Baltimore City Solicitor Thurman Zollicoffer, now with Whiteford, Taylor, and Preston, and helping represent Church and the other officers, on Sept. 15 filed a letter to Garbis, asking the judge to allow the officers to file motions for summary judgment on the grounds that “Church had probable cause to arrest Ms. Smith,” since she’d “refused lawful orders” to move her car and produce her driver’s license.

One of the officers who joined in the beating of Smith, Ulmer, was named as a defendant in Salaam’s newly filed lawsuit, which, like Smith’s, alleges that “the Officers tormented Mr. Salaam by telling him that his son,” a 3-year-old who was present in the vehicle when Ulmer and the other officers allegedly beat him while he was restrained, “would be sent to Social Services.”

An important element of Smith’s case has been Church’s seizing and smashing the phone she was using to record the officers. The “factual allegations as to the March 8, 2012 incident, combined with the allegation regarding numerous other incidents,” Garbis wrote, “plausibly establish the inference that BCPD had an official policy or custom of preventing citizens from being able to record police officers performing their official duties in public.”

Shortly before Garbis’ ruling was docketed on March 25, BPD announced a new policy allowing citizens to record police conducting their business, as long as the recordings don’t interfere with police business, an announcement that came on the heels of the city agreeing to a $250,000 settlement of a lawsuit brought by a Howard County man who said BPD officers seized his phone and deleted video of them making an arrest at the 2010 Preakness at Pimlico Race Course. The new policy tightens up an earlier one that the U.S. Department of Justice said did not go far enough to protect citizens’ rights.

Troy Williams

Troy Williams says he is cousins with Lt. Col. Melvin Russell, the BPD’s chief of community partnerships, a connection that would seem to give him an edge after, as he claims in a lawsuit filed in April, a BPD officer struck him unconscious with a police radio in July 2011 as Williams walked out of a church where he’d gone to attend a friend’s funeral, and police then filed false drug-possession charges against him. The attack, Williams claims, was part of a conspiracy to retaliate against him for filing an earlier police-brutality complaint. Whether or not Williams’ family tie helps his cause remains to be seen, as the court proceedings are at an early stage, with the officers claiming that their alleged conduct was not a conspiracy and fell within the scope of their duties, even if unauthorized.

Williams’ suit asserts that Brian Flynn, the officer who allegedly attacked him, did so because he’d filed an internal-affairs complaint about a month earlier, after seeing another unnamed officer beat a man in a jail cell where Williams had been briefly locked up without charges. Williams claims that the unnamed officer, like Flynn, served under Russell at the time, and that Williams later told Russell about the brutality complaint he’d filed. Flynn only realized he was dealing with his superior’s cousin, the lawsuit explains, after he’d struck Williams unconscious, when another officer arrived on the scene and informed him.

At that point, the lawsuit states, in “an effort to save face,” Flynn asked Williams “where it was” without saying what “it” was, and then “threw Mr. Williams in the backseat” of a cruiser and drove him to the Johns Hopkins Hospital emergency room. There, Williams’s scalp was “closed with surgical staples,” and Flynn allegedly told the emergency-room staff “to note in Mr. Williams’ file that Mr. Williams is addicted to heroin, which is a pattern, practice, and/or policy and custom . . . utilized by police officers after they have brutally attacked so-called suspects.” The lawsuit adds that “Mr. Williams is not a heroin addict and Defendant Flynn had no reason to believe that Mr. Williams was a heroin addict.” After Williams’ release from the emergency room, another officer, Dane Hicks, booked him on drug-possession charges that were later dropped, since “there was never any controlled dangerous substance recovered,” the lawsuit states.

Williams’ lawsuit includes allegations that the city is loath to hold officers accountable for their misdeeds. It is “not news to anyone in” BPD or the mayor’s office, the lawsuit states, “that officers are free to make false arrests and manipulate evidence without fear of meaningful punishment or reprimand because their supervisors control their punishments, and there is a pattern, practice, and/or policy and custom” of “not punishing officers’ misconduct or providing meaningful reprimand, many times involving backdoor deals.”


Daniel Rockwell

Rockwell, who court documents describe as “mentally challenged,” fled to the roof of his house when officers arrived there to serve an arrest warrant on him in February 2011, and, as he moved to reenter the house as directed, police officer Clyde Rawlins used a stun gun on him, and Rockwell fell off the roof of his house, resulting in fractured vertebrae. After Rockwell landed on the ground, officers rolled him over onto his stomach and handcuffed him with his arms behind his back.

Rockwell was a minor at the time of the incident. His lawyers’ efforts to obtain police documentation about the incident, which would provide them with the officers’ names and official accounts of what happened so that a lawsuit could be filed, were stymied by BPD, and initially the department took the position that no such records existed. Eventually, Rockwell sued over the issue and won in February 2013, when a Baltimore City Circuit Court judge ordered BPD to turn over its records of the incident. Rockwell and his mother, Demetria Holden, filed suit shortly thereafter.

Rockwell’s lawsuit is now in federal court, and in March U.S. District judge Richard Bennett ruled that it survived efforts by BPD and Rawlins to have it dismissed. The case against Rawlins, alleging assault and battery and gross negligence, will be litigated first, followed by claims that BPD engaged in a civil-rights conspiracy by withholding documentation of the incident.

Working on Rockwell’s behalf is Robert Klotz, a police-procedures expert who used to run the Washington, D.C., police department’s special operations division. Klotz is quoted in court filings as saying that the way Rawlins allegedly used the stun gun against Rockwell “would be a violation of the national police standards” and that “no reasonabl[y] trained officer could believe this action would be proper.”

The legal battle over Rockwell’s claims has been pitched. Recently, Rawlins’ attorneys moved to bar Rockwell’s statements from proceedings in the case, since he has been deemed in criminal courts to be incompetent to stand trial. “Rockwell conveniently claims that he is incompetent when it suits his purposes to avoid criminal prosecution,” the filing states, “but then inexplicably becomes competent when it serves his purpose of extracting money from the City of Baltimore.” In addition, the filing claims “Rawlins feared that Rockwell was reaching for a gun,” and “deployed his taser against Rockwell in self-defense.”


Mark Harrell 

Though his case was dismissed in April, the racial-discrimination suit brought by Mark Harrell and a woman, Roslyn Wiggins, revealed what U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Blake described as “unacceptable behavior by members of the Baltimore City Police Department, including a warrantless home search.” In essence, Harrell and Wiggins may have received a better result in court had they sued not over allegations of discrimination, but over violations of the U.S. Constitution’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The suit was filed against BPD officers Joseph Donato, Valentine Nagovich Jr., Iris Martin, and William Rivera. Nagovich and Donato each wrote police reports when, in September 2010, they arrested Harrell for loitering and impeding traffic. Nagovich simply stated Harrell was arrested after he was ordered to stop loitering, and after about 45 minutes, he still was—while also arguing with and cursing at the officers. Donato’s report added that Harrell “appeared to throw a dark object into the door” of a house, and, after Harrell’s arrest, Donato “used force to enter the front door” of the house, damaging the door, despite having no warrant to do so.

In her ruling, Blake wrote that the version of events related by Harrell and Wiggins “adds troubling details regarding police behavior,” including that Donato “completely destroyed” the door to the house and that, when asked what he was arresting Harrell for, Donato said, “I’ll think of something.” A few days later, Harrell was again arrested, and this time when Donato was asked what the charges were, he allegedly responded: “Let’s take it up a notch, how about conspiracy?” Harrell was placed in a police cruiser, at which point he was allegedly shown what appeared to be heroin and asked, “Oh, what do we got here?” After 17 hours in lockup, Harrell was released without charges.

Donato’s been in trouble before, drawing lawsuits for a drug raid based on an allegedly perjured warrant and for allegedly assaulting a man whose cellphone he seized because the man was using the phone to record the police beating two men in handcuffs. Blake’s ruling in the case brought by Harrell and Wiggins states that “since the events alleged in this case, Donato and Rivera have been removed from active duty as a result of disciplinary actions, although they remain employed by the Baltimore City Police Department.”


Thomas Robert Foster Jr.

In a case that shows the potential value of installing surveillance cameras around one’s home, Thomas Robert Foster Jr. and his father and sister sued several BPD officers for false arrest, a falsified sworn statement of probable cause, and an illegal search of their home. The accused officers—Thomas E. Wilson, Keith Gladstone, Carmine Vignola, and Gregory Fisher—have not answered the lawsuit, which was filed last December, but a motions battle that resulted in the city being dismissed as a defendant has revealed key facts and circumstances.

On May 24, 2012, Foster exited his home, an act that was recorded by his surveillance cameras. Moments later, he was arrested by Wilson and Fisher, and Wilson allegedly punched Foster in the face while he was handcuffed. Wilson’s sworn statement to justify Foster’s arrest says he was carrying a black bag containing drugs when he left his house. What the camera recorded, though, was Foster walking out of his house “without a black bag or any similar item in his hands,” according to court documents.

Immediately after arresting Foster, Wilson and Fisher entered Foster’s home without a warrant, and were soon joined by Gladstone and Vignola—all of which was captured on video. Wilson then sought a warrant to search the house, and in doing so swore, once again, that Foster was carrying a black bag with drugs in it. Still, Foster was indicted and held in jail for 197 days before prosecutors declined to pursue the charges.

Foster’s lawsuit points out that Wilson has a track record of “making false representations to a Court,” having drawn a rebuke from a federal judge in a 2003 for telling “knowing lies” in testimony and an affidavits in a criminal case, yet BPD “allowed him to remain in his position as a drug enforcement officer.”


Marlow Humbert

After spending 14 months in jail before rape charges against him were dropped in July 2009, during which time he was dubbed the “Charles Village Rapist” in the media, Humbert in March convinced a federal judge that his malicious-prosecution claims against three BPD officers—Christopher Jones, Dominick Griffin, and Caprice Smith—should proceed. DNA tests excluded Humbert as a suspect within a month of his arrest, yet, despite the victim’s apparent uncertainty in identifying Humbert as the man who raped her, the case continued as Humber languished in jail.

In their effort to establish probable cause to arrest Humbert for the rape, according to the judge’s ruling in the case, officers may have purposefully misconstrued the strength of the victim’s photo-identification of Humbert, and then, at Humbert’s arraignment, they apparently ignored the victim’s statements that she “had even more doubt” that they had the right suspect after seeing Humbert in person.

The defendants contend that the victim’s identification of Humbert was, in fact, positive, and so they continued to prosecute the case, despite the DNA exclusion. The charges were dropped, court documents state, due to the victim “becoming discouraged with the justice system due to numerous postponements,” so “she no longer wanted to participate in the case.”

A one-week trial is scheduled to begin in the federal courthouse in Baltimore next April, but a key question is still undecided: will the victim, who has since moved to Flint, Michigan, be required to testify in person or via live transmission from another location? Court documents say “she reports to fear for her safety” in Baltimore, yet the defense attorneys point out that Flint “is more dangerous than Baltimore” and is “the second most dangerous city in the country.”


Jerome Dale

The way Jerome Dale puts it, in January 2011 he was chased by two men through the streets of Baltimore at night during a snowstorm, escaped his pursuers by catching a passing MTA bus, and then got off the bus to seek protection from police officers at a 7-Eleven—but the officers he was asking for help proceeded to arrest him when the victim of an earlier rape arrived, with the men who had been pursuing Dale, and identified him as the rapist, though one of the officers noted that the identification was weak. As a result, Dale—who in 1979 was awarded the Young American Medal for Bravery by President Ronald Reagan for rescuing two small children from a house fire—spent seven months in jail until DNA exonerated him and the charges were dropped.

Dale’s complaint alleges that BPD officers “knew that they did not have probable cause to” arrest Dale since a “note written by one of Mr. Dale’s arresting officers” stated that “they didn’t believe that Mr. Dale committed the reported rape.” Yet, as they proceeded with the case, they “hindered the testing and production” of his “exonerating DNA evidence,” the complaint continues, “as a means of prolonging the revelation that they had, in fact, arrested and charged another innocent man.” The lawsuit makes references to Humbert’s case, arguing that Dale’s alleged experience is part of a trend, in which “false arrests are made in reported rape cases and, subsequently, the testing and production of exonerating DNA evidence is hindered” while the accused “are left to languish indefinitely in pre-trial incarceration.”

A key part of Dale’s claim is that the police ceased investigating the victim’s reported rape once they’d arrested Dale base on the victim’s identification, and “did not make any attempt to confirm Mr. Dale’s alibis, despite his vehement statements that at least four different people could attest to his whereabouts on the evening” it occurred. This, the lawsuit alleges, goes against federal, state, and city law-enforcement guidance that an “investigation will not be concluded or otherwise cease based solely on a potential eyewitness identification,” but “will continue until all physical evidence has been collected and examined, all witness identified, and all reasonable leads explored.”


Guy Jackson 

After allegedly being forced by two men with guns to drive a stolen vehicle to a West Baltimore intersection, where the men got out and started shooting at someone, Guy Jackson was shot by police while he sat in the car in April 2013. It’s what happened afterward, though, when Jackson was being treated at Maryland Shock Trauma that, according to a federal judge’s July ruling, is a triable claim of unreasonable search and seizure.

BPD homicide detective Julian Min—whose prior police conduct contributed to the city settling a lawsuit over a young man’s false attempted-murder charges—arrived at Shock Trauma about six days later and allegedly told the doctors treating Jackson that he was taking him to the medical facility at the Baltimore City Jail. The doctors advised him not to, but Min escorted Jackson out of the hospital anyway, and instead interrogated him at police headquarters before putting him out on the streets. Jackson was thus left outside near President Street, his jaw wired shut and a feeding tube inserted in his stomach, wearing only a hospital gown.

Jackson, along with the one other man who survived the barrage of police bullets, remains charged with attempted murder, along with handgun and stolen-vehicle counts. But his attorneys maintain he is charged for a crime that prosecutors know he didn’t commit.


Anthony Anderson Sr.

After Anthony Anderson died as a result of a 2012 beating he received by BPD officers Todd Strohman, Michael Vodarick, and Gregg Boyd, his family and his estate sued the officers, the city, and BPD last October. In March, U.S. District Judge George Russell III let the city and BPD out of the case, but it’s proceeding against the officers, who, though the medical examiner ruled Anderson’s death a homicide, were not charged criminally, since their use of force against Anderson was not deemed excessive.

Anderson’s lawyers paint a partial picture of the incident in the lawsuit, not making any mention of the much-publicized facts that police had observed Anderson conducting a hand-to-hand drug deal and that, after they’d restrained him, they found drugs in his mouth. Nonetheless, Russell’s brief recitation of what happened, memorialized in his ruling, bears repeating.

Anderson “was returning home from a local corner store on September 21, 2012,” Russell wrote, “when Officer Strohman approached him from behind in a vacant lot, lifted Anderson from his knees, and threw him to the ground head and neck first. Officer Strohman handcuffed Anderson while he lay on the ground. Moments later, Officers Vodarick and Boyd approached. The three officers proceeded to kick Anderson repeatedly in his ribs, stomach, back, and chest, causing him significant injuries from which he later died.”


Yardell Henderson

In August, Yardell Henderson won a $100,000 verdict from a Baltimore City Circuit Court against BPD officers Kody Taylor and Matthew Sarver, over a 2010 incident in which they beat up Henderson, who was 16 years old and about 120 pounds at the time.

Henderson’s attorney, Cary Hansel, issued a press release after the verdict, claiming that the officers first “provoked” Henderson to run from them “by shouting racial epithets and other insults at him,” and then chased him to behind his home, where, before witnesses, he was “beaten, punched, kicked, choked and handcuffed,” and then “transported to a different location,” where “he was searched and released without charges.”

Hansel argued that the officers’ decision to move Henderson was “part of a cover up so that when supervisors responded to the minor’s new location, there would be no witnesses there to the attack,” and that the incident was “a pretext to search and interrogate” Henderson “about any crime in the area.” Henderson, though, “had no such information to provide them and the search turned up no contraband.”

Taylor and Sarver have left BPD, according to Hansel, and during the trial Taylor refused to testify about what led to his departure: “an integrity sting” that “resulted in allegations that Taylor was involved with pocketing money recovered from an undercover officer posing as an arrestee.”


Christine Abbott

After BPD officers Lee Grishkot and Todd Edick arrived at a party in Hampden in June 2012, responding to a noise complaint, they talked with Jacob Masters Jr. and asked him to put out his cigarette. When Masters refused, they threatened to use a stun gun on him, at which point Christine Abbott intervened, asking the officers and Masters to “calm down” and suggesting there was “no need” to make such threats, according to the lawsuit Abbott filed against Grishkot and Edick last November.

At that point, Abbott claims, the officers “grabbed” her and “threw her to the ground,” causing her “dress to go up over her back, revealing her underwear” and her shoulder to be “cut and bleeding.” When the officers stood her up, her “dress was ripped” and her “breasts were exposed,” yet they “refused to allow” Abbott to “pull up her dress or otherwise conceal her breasts.” They then handcuffed her and put her in a police transport van, but “did not strap or harness her in the back” of the van, which they “maniacally drove” to the police station, “thereby tossing” Abbott “around the interior of the van,” causing “further injuries.”

Abbott was charged with “assault, resisting arrest, obstructing and hindering, and disorderly conduct,” and was detained for 19 hours before being released. The charges against her were later dismissed. Grishkot and Edick have denied wrongdoing, but admit that some of Abbott’s allegations are true, including that they threatened to use a stun gun on Masters and that Grishkot threw Abbott into the van and proceeded to give her a rough ride.